Saturday, October 20, 2012

Workhouse Arts Center

Today I went to the Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton, VA.  It is non-profit organization dedicated to the arts and arts education. It is a very unique place with an interesting history. 

Built in the early 1900s, it was originally a work prison formed during the Progressive Era.  The maximum capacity was 600 inmates.  Originally the prison had over 3,200 acres and was designed to be almost entirely self-sufficient. The prison had a working farm, industrial complex that included making furniture and bricks, an orchard, a cannery, and a dairy. The website has an excellent history if you want to learn more.

In the early 2000s Fairfax County purchased the land and buildings.  The Lorton Arts Foundation was formed to administer the activities and the grounds.  Of the entire complex, seven buildings are currently dedicated to the arts.  Over 100 professional and emerging artists are affiliated with the center.

Buildings house artists that share the same passion.  A separate building is for visual (watercolor and oil painting), photography, glass, ceramics, fiber and performing artists. In addition, over 150 classes are offered every quarter.

What makes this unique is visitors are encouraged to interact with the artists.  I talked to Crystal Rodrigue, very talented mixed media artist. She and her husband live in Spotsylvania, VA and own the Rodrique Studios.  When I was at her studio in the Workhouse Arts Center, Crystal was gilding a photograph. One of my favorite pieces of work was a gilded photograph of antique typewriter keys.  She was very friendly and we talked for a while.  No doubt she was passionate about her work and she has been a resident of the center for over 2 years.

I enjoyed it. If you like to see artists of all genres at work, this is a very worthwhile experience.  A link to the center follows.

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